Alberta village says elderly man was not ‘forced out’ over painting bill

William Yarmovich says he's been forced to sell his home after receiving a $4000 bill from the Village of Ryley. Sarah Kraus, Global News

The Village of Ryley wants to set the record straight about a senior who said he sold his home to pay the village’s painting bill.

In a letter sent to Ryley residents Tuesday, Camrose law firm Knaut Johnson Francoeur – on behalf of the village – outlined the steps the village took with William Yarmovich to paint his home, saying “it has gone out of its way” to help the 86-year-old with his property.

“William Yarmovich was not forced out of his house, nor was William Yarmovich forced to sell his house,” read the letter. “William Yarmovich has not lived in that house for over five years.” (Read the full letter below).

Over the weekend, 86-year-old Yarmovich told Global News he was forced to sell the home he lived in for nearly 20 years after the village handed him a $4,000 bill to paint the outside of his house.

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Selling the house came after Yarmovich was given a notice from the village to paint his home in early 2015. Yarmovich said he tried to get the work done on his own but wasn’t able to due to injury and poor weather. He said despite a time extension, he wasn’t able to finish the work.

READ MORE: 86-year-old Alberta man sells house to pay village painting bill

Ryley Mayor Lavonne Svenson did not answer questions when reached on Saturday, but told Global News “We have forwarded all of our documents to our legal council and are waiting for his response.”

When reached for further comment Wednesday, Svenson said she did not want to release private information about a resident before ensuring legally she was allowed to do so.

“We weren’t trying to hide. We were wanting to make sure we didn’t release something that could make the situation worse or be illegal.”

In its letter Tuesday, the village said it handed out 244 notices to residents to maintain their property between 2015 and 2016.

“These notices went to people of various ages, financial situations and lifestyles,” read the letter.

Of the 244 notices handed out, the village said much of the work was completed within the deadline given, but added it contracted over 20 citations to have the work done, including the work at Yarmovich’s home.

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The village said about three weeks after receiving notice to paint his house, Yarmovich visited the village office to advise staff he wasn’t sure what he would do with the house and that he might demolish it because it was in poor condition.

The village said it granted Yarmovich several extensions to get the work done, which continued until Sept. 6, 2016 when Yarmovich was given notice that the house would be painted the following day.

“Contractors were sent into the property and were surprised the house took three coats of paint to even get a reasonable cover up,” read the village’s letter.

On Sept. 16, the village said it sent Yarmovich an invoice for $3,200 for paint, plus GST and an administration fee.

The village said Yarmovich refused to pay the bill, despite offering him an opportunity to go on a payment program.

“The village has an obligation to enforce its bylaws equally and evenly on its residents and did so in this case. With regards to any allegations of elder abuse, the Village of Ryley strongly denies such a claim, rather the village treated William Yarmovich with courtesy and compassion,” read the letter.

Since the original story was published on Sunday, a village administrator said the office and staff have received threatening phone calls and emails. Hundreds of social media posts condemn the village and its residents.

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Svenson said the level of anger that was expressed was “quite severe.”

“I was quite disappointed in the portrayal of our village and the quick-to-anger,” she said Wednesday.

Yarmovich’s former next-door neighbour said Ryley doesn’t deserve the abuse. Kathy Wall said she and other residents helped him with various repairs and some of the painting of his house, but he told them he didn’t want to complete the job.

“The village may have been a little over-excessive, painting the house like that, but there has to be somebody in authority. … The people that are fighting for him — they don’t really know the story.”

Svenson said Ryley is a wonderful community with fabulous people who go out of their way to help others.

“I think I can agree that we have certainly received a bit of a black eye over this situation,” she said. “I think the key is that we just need to move forward and continue to work with our residents and continue to try to work together and be effective together. That is one of the main benefits of living in a small community.”

The Village of Ryley is a small community of 497 residents located just 50 minutes east of Edmonton on Highway 14.

Global News has reached out to Yarmovich for comment on this story.

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Read the full letter sent to residents below:

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